Central African Republic’s government and the country’s last remaining rebel group have signed a ceasefire in the latest bid to restore security to the mineral-rich, unstable and isolated nation.
The northern CPJP rebels, who have launched a series of attacks on Bangui’s weak government over the last four years, have agreed to confine their soldiers to barracks while talks on a final peace deal take place.
“We are committed to peace once and for all. (There will be) no more war in Central African Republic,” Zakaria Mahamat, a senior member of the rebel group, told Reuters late on Sunday after the signing in Bangui, Reuters reports.
“The CPJP has decided to lay down its weapons … On behalf of the CPJP I ask for forgiveness from the people of CAR who are living today in the bush, suffering and miserable,” he added.
President Francois Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 coup, has been dogged by a string of rebellions across the former French colony, which has endured years of misrule since independence in 1960.
A mix of local rebels, bandits and the spillover of conflicts from neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have undermined efforts to stabilise the nation, which has diamonds, gold and uranium but lacks serious investment.
The CPJP’s latest major attack was last year on the north-eastern town of Birao, when more than 65 rebels and 15 government soldiers were killed.
Charles Massi, the group’s leader, disappeared two years ago and the rebels accused the government of having tortured him to death. Bozize confirmed Massi was dead but gave no details.